Hospital Impact—To improve patient engagement, leverage the power of digital content

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Your patients already do everything on their smartphones, so why not make it easier for them to monitor their health and interact with your practice on their mobile device?
Holly Rollins

Most medical offices have adopted the use of technology, online marketing and social media. They’ve also embraced content in the form of blog posts, videos, social shares and more.

But while it’s not a new concept in the medical field, the challenge has become how to use this material to increase patient engagement. When patients are engaged in their medical care, they may be more proactive and able to receive a greater benefit from available health services. This can also lead to improved health and, ultimately, a better experience with a physician or facility.

To use content as a method for boosting patient engagement, it’s important to create and test different types of online media, creating a mix of materials that your patients can interact with, use and share. This content could include infographics, photos, quizzes, online calculators, educational blog posts and videos.

Use the following tips, ideas and expert advice to improve your patient engagement with content.

Create content that will be found

Before a new patient walks in the door, he or she has likely learned a great deal about your facility and your staff. As with any other business, individuals Google your practice, check online reviews and look for recommendations. This is especially true for millennials, according to a recent survey, which found that 54% of people ages 18 to 24 say they search online for health information and rely on online physician ratings before seeing a doctor.

If patients are searching, you need to be creating. The more content you have to be indexed by Google, the more likely it is to come up in a search. If your article is the one that current patients click on, all the better; they’ll be impressed that their physician’s office has such great information online.

Here are a few ways to take advantage of this and create engaging content that patients, both current and new, will want to come back to:

  • Design and write content based on keywords with a high search volume. Check search volume with Google’s Keyword Tool to ensure you’re writing about something people are looking for online.
  • Encourage readers to comment with questions or concerns. This is the best form of engagement because you can be impactful with your responses, building trust with current patients and driving new ones.
  • Of course, when patients comment, this feature should always be monitored for responsive feedback.
  • Make “share” buttons visible so readers are more likely to share content on social media. If your patients’ friends see the blog post, they may be more likely to seek out your practice for care as well.

Pro tip: Create content based on patient questions. When the blog post or content is live, send it via email to the patient who asked, saying, “Thanks for your great question. We decided to answer it in a blog post!” They’ll feel special and your office will look even more valuable.

Create content that will educate

A 2013 study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 72% of U.S. internet users had gone online in the past year specifically for health-related information. This is a potentially dangerous rabbit hole for patients, with so much information available, much of which is incorrect. But what if patients and prospective clients knew they could come to your site for factual content that they can trust?

Become the No. 1 source for legitimate and trustworthy health information, related to your specific area of health, to impress and build further trust with your current patients. Then, let word-of-mouth marketing do its job: An endorsement from someone the potential patient knows is more impactful in terms of trusting the recommendation than online ads, according to a 2015 Nielsen report.

Pro tip: Make sure your content is both educational and interactive to boost engagement. At least once a month, go beyond blog posts to create interactive content like quizzes and symptom checkers. Infographics are also a good way to communicate important and confusing information, and in our fast-paced world, you’re more likely to get readers to scan an infographic than read an entire blog post.

Connect with email

While phone calls are still necessary for one-on-one patient communication, such as follow-ups and appointment reminders, email gives you a chance to reach more patients at once. A study from Catalyst Healthcare Research found that 93% of adults want to use email communication with their doctor.

The key is to consistently send high-value content to your patients. For example, you may create a “Flu Guide” for the winter season, with tips and tricks for staying healthy during that time of year. Perhaps during allergy season, you could publish an infographic on your blog about reducing symptoms and then send it in an email blast to your patients about getting through the “Spring Sneezing Season.”

Pro tip: End each email with a call to action. In the flu example, your CTA may be, “Call us to schedule your flu shot today!” with a link to your online scheduling software. This makes the content emails valuable to you and your patients and encourages engagement.

Create an app for your patients

Your patients already do everything on their smartphones, so why not make it easier for them to monitor their health and interact with your practice on their mobile device? You can create an app for patients to make and check appointments or get creative and add fun, interactive features like calculators, calorie counters and activity trackers. Your patients are much more likely to follow doctors’ orders when you incentivize or gamify treatment plans or give them a way to track their behavior.

Nine in 10 patients said they would use an app “prescribed” by a physician, and 30% of patients already use apps to monitor their health conditions, according to an infographic from eVisit.

Pro tip: Building an app can be costly and will take time. Start with the most valuable features and ideas first, perhaps based on what your patients have requested, and add more as you learn what’s most engaging.

Patient engagement is one strategy to achieve the Triple Aim of improved health outcomes, better patient care and lower costs—and content can help you get there. You may not be able to implement all of these strategies right away, so pick a few that make sense for your practice, and track the results. Check in with patients about what they like and don’t like, using their feedback to improve content and ultimately, engagement.

Holly Rollins has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and public relations. As president of 10x digital, she has facilitated successful content marketing and digital marketing/PR for a variety of sectors, including healthcare.